Wednesday, June 11, 2014

“Marimba When"..............Leigh Howard Stevens

Every serious student of marimba is familiar with the pioneering 4-mallet technique of Leigh Howard Stevens. However, there’s a whole other side to this craft, which has to do with the translation of classical repertoire for the instrument.  Some of the greatest composers of the 19th century (and beyond) have been represented with absolute artistry in a CD entitled “Marimba When” – a collection of piano music by Debussy, Schumann, Tchaikovsky and Khachaturian as performed by Mr. Stevens.

The opening track, "Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum” from Debussy’s “Children’s Corner” is a personal favorite of mine. The tempo was carefully chosen (a bit slower than normally performed on piano) to allow the notes to speak fully (considering the natural decay of the instrument). The dynamics on "The Snow is Dancing" (also Debussy) demonstrate extreme sensitivity and control along with the backdrop arpeggio against the chordal melody.

Another beautiful melody comes from Schumann’s "Untitled No.30" (from “Album for the Young”, Op.68). The tempo is much slower than what is commonly heard on piano but (here again) it works perfectly for marimba,  drawing attention to the slowly shifting harmony through extended rolls. The chordal accompaniment on "Remembrance" (also “Album for the Young”, Op.68) resonates for the perfect duration before changing chords. As is evident here, a player must listen to the natural characteristics of the marimba to determine performance choices that may not apply to the original instrument (i.e. piano).

Shifting gears slightly, Khachaturian’s "Ivan Can't Go Out today" (from “The Adventures of Ivan”) is driven by a triplet flow – impeccably executed! A final highlight includes "Ivan Goes to a Party" with a performance that really conveys the quality and depth of the instrument - especially the low notes that introduce the piece.

I highly recommend owning this CD if you’re a serious student of 4-mallet marimba. “Marimba When” demonstrates how a true understanding of classical repertoire can lead to the most musical and idiomatic translation for the instrument.

To purchase “Marimba When”, click below:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Do it Now!

That movie you wanted to see, the road trip you wanted to take, that creative writing course you wanted to take, that composition or poem you wanted to write…..don’t wait until next month or next week…do it now! It’s pretty easy (and common) to postpone small pleasures in life in favor of tasks that “must get done”. However, sometimes the proverbial “to do” list consists of things that actually can wait. I find that I have more energy and focus to take care of the mundane tasks in life as long as I mix it up with what you might call “spiritual food”….the stuff that keeps you happy. Keep a balance…it’s something I remind myself to do regularly and thought it was worth sharing :)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Snowstorm:a good reason to compose…or just enjoy solitude

Yes, a snowstorm has arrived here in the Northeast. I have to admit, except for the travel difficulties, I love a good snowstorm. There is an introspective quality about the quiet landing of snow on the ground. It seems to calm the soul and pave the way for thoughts that we often don’t have time to consider. I find this to be a perfect opportunity to compose, write poetry or even meditate. It’s as if the weather itself dictates that you must stay inside and become one with your thoughts. That said, I invite you to grab a cup of hot cocoa, watch the snow fall and listen….even if it’s only to the sound of silence ;)